Research Title: Paleoclimatology Program (PAGES)
Funding Level (millions of dollars):
Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittees: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) Task Group on Observations and Data Management Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Natural Variability (primary) Climate Change (secondary)
(c) Research Activity: Systems Structure and Function: Observations (45%); Understanding (30%); Data Management (25%)
Office of Global Programs
1100 Wayne Ave., Suite 1225
Silver Spring, MD, 20910
Point of Contact:
C. Mark Eakin
Phone: 301 427-2089 x710
To observe and identify the causes and processes responsible for natural climate variability on annual to century scales, and to extend the baseline of natural climate variability data over the last 2,000 years.
The reliable prediction of decade to century-scale climate variability requires knowledge of past climate variability and an understanding of how the climate system operates on time scales longer than a few decades. Most 50 to 150-year long instrumental records of past climate change are too short to obtain this knowledge. Development of centuries- long records of North American drought, ENSO-related changes, Asian monsoon variability, North Atlantic climate change, and marine ecosystem dynamics all receive high priority. Equally important are efforts to establish a paleoclimatic framework for testing the ability of predictive models to simulate the observed decade- to century-scale patterns of past climate, ocean, biosphere, and trace-gas change. The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program is backed by an enthusiastic research community, and is guided by strong national and international advisory structures. While the NOAA paleoclimate research is global in scope, it also supports development of needed "paleo perspectives" for other program elements in NOAA and the USGCRP.
Understanding past climate changes (30%): An understanding of how the climate system responded to altered forcing in the past will be key to predicting how climatic variability will be affected by future greenhouse warming. This understanding may also help anticipate some types of climate system responses ("surprises") that are not apparent in the relatively benign record of climate change over the past 150 years.
Data management and access (25%): The ICSU World Data Center for Paleoclimatology, housed at NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center and managed by the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program, has built the largest public-domain databank of global paleoenvironmental information.
The NOAA established ICSU (International Council of Scientific Unions) World Data Center for Paleoclimatology serves to coordinate paleoenvironmental data generated by US agencies (NOAA, NSF, USGS, and USNPS), as well as data associated with the activities of the IGBP-PAGES (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, Past Global Changes) Core Project and the IGBP-PAGES International Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP). In turn, PAGES and PMIP are focused on meeting NOAA's goals of improving our ability to predict future climatic change. The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program contributes to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) process via NOAA and IGBP PAGES channels.
Summer, 1994: Establish framework for international data exchange; Fall, 1994: Distribute free via Internet paleoclimatic data and PaleoVu browse and visualization software tool; Spring, 1995: Conduct PMIP past climate model intercomparison .
The NOAA Paleoclimatology Program contributes the long paleoclimatic time series needed, as a baseline, to identify the extent to which recent climatic change is driven by human activity. The NOAA program also advances predictive skill by providing critical insights into the dynamics and causes of natural decade to century-scale climatic variability, as well as a validation framework for predictive models. This understanding of long-term climatic variability is critical to intelligent policy formulation.